Disaster Risk Reduction

PAC supports governments (national and sub-national), donors and practitioners in disaster risk reduction, disaster preparedness, early warning systems, hazard mitigation and disaster risk management. PAC works to bring Practical Action’s experience and best practices to scale through our consultancy services, whilst collaborating with cutting edge research done by others to bring external best practices back to Practical Action. We support the piloting and scale-up of innovative new approaches and technologies, for example work with the University of Lancaster/Natural Environment Research Council on probabilistic flood forecasting in South Asia. We provide technical assistance to donors, for example advising the UK Department for International Development (DFID) on Early Warning Systems in Latin America and Africa, and on Climate Services for South Asia. We also advise practitioners for example advising Plan International, UNDP and Action Aid on Community Based Early Warning systems in Nepal and Afghanistan  

Our key interventions in this field focus on:

  • Flood Resilience
  • Multi -Hazard Disaster Risk Management
  • Early Warning Systems
  • Strengthening Market System Resilience
  • Needs Analysis and scoping studies
  • Research, piloting and evaluation
  • Technical Advisory Services
  • Knowledge documentation and dissemination

Look at the full range of projects and policy work Practical Action undertakes in the field of Disaster Risk Reduction.

Communicating Extreme Weather Event Attribution: Research from Kenya and India

Climate change attribution analysis assesses the likelihood that a particular extreme weather event has been made more or less likely as a result of anthropogenic climate change. Communication of extreme event attribution information in the immediate aftermath of an extreme event provides a window of opportunity to inform, educate, and affect a change in attitude or behaviour in order to mitigate or prepare for climate change.

Effective communication of climate change attribution information is critical to ensuring decision makers at all levels understand and are able to act upon such information. Presented here are the results from a 2017 study in Kenya and India, examining the most effective methods, phrases and tools for communicating climate change attribution information to high-level decision makers, the media, and the general public.

The research explores three key issues:

  • Effective phrasing of attribution information
  • Appropriate visual communication of attribution information
  • Trusted sources and channels to communicate information

Disaster Risk Reduction Capability Statement

Practical Action Consulting (PAC) takes lessons from Practical Action on what works best (and what are the challenges) in terms of Disaster Risk Reduction at community/grass-roots level, and applies these lessons to our technical advisory work at sub-national, national and global levels.


Global Flood Resilience Alliance (2013-2018)

Partner – Zurich Insurance, International Federation of the Red Cross

Location: South Asia and Latin America

Practical Action Consulting is part of a five year £22 million programme with Practical Action, Zurich Insurance, the International Federation of the Red Cross, and two specialist research partners working to build flood resilience in South Asia and Latin America.

Practical Action Consulting’s role is to take best practices or identified obstacles for flood resilience drawn from Practical Action’s community level programming, and take them to scale through integration into PAC technical advisory services across South Asia and Latin America. The work in Nepal also includes technical advice to the International Federation of the Red Cross, the Nepal Red Cross and the Government of Nepal for the enhancement of Early Warning Systems in the Koshi river basin.

PAC is currently focusing on developing and testing innovative flood forecasting approaches linked to early warning systems in Nepal, improving cross-border flood assessment and management in India, supporting a flood Post Event Review Capability (PERC) Assessment to extract lessons from 2014 floods in Nepal, reviewing best practices for Integrated River Basin Management across Latin America and South East Asia and supporting governments (and departments of Hydrology/Meteorology) to improve Early Warning and Flood Risk Management across South Asia and Latin America.

Recent publications include:

Urgent case for recovery: what we can learn from the August 2014 Karnali River floods in Nepal

Plus two papers accepted for presentation at the annual conference of the International Society of Integrated Disaster Risk Management (IDRiM) 2015:

Smith, J., Brown, S. & Dugar, S. (2015) ‘Improving flood resilience in Nepal though forecast based early warning’ accepted for presentation at the 6th Annual Conference of the International Society for Integrated Disaster Risk Management (IDRiM - October 2015 )

Dugar, S. and Brown, S. (2015) ‘How often will a 1 in a 1000 year flood occur? The 2014 Karnali flood in West Nepal’ accepted for presentation at the 6th Annual Conference of the International Society for Integrated Disaster Risk Management (IDRiM - October 2015)

Options Analysis for a DFID Programme on Regional Climate Services, Early Warning and Disaster Risk Reduction in South Asia (2015)

Client: DFID

Location: South Asia

PAC has undertaken research, analysis and consultation to provide DFID with advice and options on the design of a new multi-million pound regional climate services programme for South Asia. Our analysis has examined the current state of affairs of climate services, early warning and disaster risk reduction capacity in the region.

The work has provided DFID with an overview of the current state of climate information and services in South Asia, Burma and parts of South East Asia. It has collated the views and priorities of a wider range of important stakeholders, gained through high level consultations with a wide number of influential stakeholders including climate service providers such as National Meteorological and Hydrological Agencies, climate service users such as National Disaster Management Authorities, sectoral departments, intermediaries as well as significant regional donors (eg the World Bank, USAID etc).

PAC UK (and wider PA/PAC South Asia DRR teams in partnership with UK Met Office) has provided DFID with priority intervention options aimed at strengthening the gathering, use and application of weather and climate information across the region for better decision making and response around weather and climate risks. The scoping work has identified where DFID could build on other relevant initiatives globally and regionally, providing a step-change in the use of climate information to support disaster risk reduction as well as poverty reduction and promote socio-economic development, with a particular focus on protecting poor and vulnerable communities, especially women and girls.

The PAC team worked extremely closely with DFID technical specialists and the DFID South Asia Regional Climate Team to analyse the current state of climate services in South Asia and recommend options for up to £145 million in DFID investment.

The preferred option is CLIMATISE South Asia (CLIMATe and Information SErvices for South Asia). This programme would focus on demand-led strengthening of access to and uptake of relevant weather and climate information, delivering improved weather and climate services to inform decision making in agriculture, DRR and associated sectors, to benefit vulnerable groups, especially women and girls. This option proposes an initial phase 1 investment of £10 million between 2016 and 2017, followed by a phase 2 larger investment of up to £140 million. It consists of three elements: i) demand-led testing of climate services for the agriculture and DRR sectors ii) multi-country gap filling supply-side investment eg in observations and weather prediction and iii) regional cooperation and information sharing. Through undertaking this work, PAC has helped influence DFID’s thinking and priorities in this important area, including maintaining a clear focus on the demand side of climate information, on the needs of last mile users (including linking with farmers and community based early warning systems), and a focus on the importance of cross-border and regional collaboration.

Case Studies on Early Warning Systems in Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean (2013) feeding into SHEAR Scoping Study on Risk Assessment and Early Warning

Client: DFID with HR Wallingford,

Location: Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean

PAC led a study for the UK Department of International Development (DFID) providing analysis of NGO perspectives on Early Warning Systems (EWS) across East, Central, Southern and West Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean. The EWS case studies shaped DFID’s research priorities through the SHEAR programme (Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience) that was launched in 2015.

The scoping report provided case studies of Early Warning Systems (EWSs) and risk assessments encompassing three main hazard types: drought; flood and cyclone. The case studies were taken from ten countries across three continents (focusing on Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean). The aim of these case studies was to ensure that DFID SHEAR research is informed by the views of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and communities engaged with Early Warning Systems and risk assessments (including community-based Early Warning Systems). The case studies highlighted a number of challenges facing Early Warning Systems (EWSs). These challenges relate to financing; integration; responsibilities; community interpretation; politics; dissemination; accuracy; capacity and focus.

The case studies summarised a number of priority areas for EWS related research:

• Priority 1: Contextualising and localising early warning information

• Priority 2: Climate proofing current EWSs

• Priority 3: How best to sustain effective EWSs between hazard events?

• Priority 4: Optimising the dissemination of risk and warning information

• Priority 5: Governance and financing of EWSs

• Priority 6: How to support EWSs under challenging circumstances

• Priority 7: Improving EWSs through monitoring and evaluating the impact and effectiveness of those systems.

Technical Advisory Services on Community Based Early Warning Systems (2012-2015)

Clients: Plan International, Action Aid

Location: South Asia

We provide technical advisory services on disaster risk management, disaster preparedness, early warning systems, hazard mitigation and disaster risk reduction to governments, donors and practitioners. Recent work includes advising Plan International and Action Aid on Community Based Early Warning systems in Nepal and Afghanistan.

Assessment and installation of community-based early warning systems for the communities downstream of Tsho Rolpa Glacial Lake (2013-2015)

Client: UNDP

Location: Nepal

We are developing a community-based early warning system (EWS) for communities downstream of a Glacial Lake (Tsho Rolpa) in Nepal. The work will apply lessons learnt from our extensive experience working with Community Based Early Warning Systems in Nepal to establish a low cost, low-tech community oriented EWS. We will design and help establish the system, and also build local community capacity to manage and respond effectively to various hydro-meteorological hazards.

Key outputs:

i) Details of community-based EWS installation plan ready to use downstream of Tsho Rolpa Glacier Lake

ii) Training manual on EWS which will help to scale up in other areas

iii) All identified team members trained on various aspects of community-based EWS to leave institutional capacity with UNDP

iv) An operational manual will be developed through field assessment and consultative process. Testing of the EWS and two mock drill exercises will be conducted

v) Linkages established between community, district stakeholders, District Emergency Operations Centre and National Emergency Operations Centre

Contact our International DRR Team

UK Head Office

Contact: Sarah Brown - International Projects Manager, Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction

Address: Practical Action Consulting UK, The Schumacher Centre, Bourton on Dunsmore, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV23 9QZ
Telephone: +44 (0)1926 634403

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